Although the world of globalization is happening all around us, it is much more evident while living abroad. When home in America, it is not our natural instincts to question our surroundings and interactions, in which we consider self-evident. However, once we step into unfamiliar territory, we gain heightened awareness, and our daily routines become subjects of discussion. This initial shock, leading to cultural understanding, is essential to prepare young study abroad students to encounter globalization.
From the moment I set foot into my apartment I personally encountered globalization through the act of integration of mix-cultures, or “hybridization” (Robins, p. 240). Due to the fact that all of the girls that I am living with have different backgrounds, come from different places, and we are all living in Italy while incorporating the Italian lifestyle into our everyday lives, several cultures have consequently “mixed” together. Personally, I tend to notice this integration in the kitchen, when we are all preparing a dinner together. Due to the fact that we are always inspired by the popular Italian food culture, we usually begin with a pasta dish. Suddenly, the meal has become something completely new and unique of its own. Interesting spices, side dishes, sauces, and beverages have all been added in accordance to someone’s personal background or upbringing. Kevin Robins explains this concept in reference to movement of people, “With mobility, comes encounter. In many respects, this may be stimulating and productive. Global encounters and interactions are producing inventive new cultural forms and repertoires” (Robins, p. 240). What was once a simple Italian dish now contains pieces of multiple cultures.
In addition to the concept of “hybridization”, Robins presented several other ideas in which really resonated with me. For instance, being that I am American, I have never really stopped to think of how the spread of American culture could be perceived negatively abroad. Robins states, “There is the clear sense in some quarters that ‘Americanization’ – from Hollywood to Coke and McDonald’s – is a threat to the integrity of European cultural life (see Tomlinson 1997)” (Robins, p. 241). Walking through the city of Rome, Italy, I am happy to say that there is a sense of tranquility in the fact that typical fast food chains are not found on every street corner. However, that is not to say that I haven’t passed a McDonald’s or two during my time here. Turning on the radio you will find American music, flipping through television channels you will find American shows and movies, and shopping in supermarkets you will find American brands. What always confuses me most about American influence on European countries is: why do they enjoy listening to music that they cannot understand? Despite my silly confusion, after reading Robins’ analysis of this phenomenon, I can understand why this mass-spread of American culture could be frustrating. Robins explains, “But where some envisage and enjoy cosmopolitan complexities, others perceive, and often oppose, what they see as cultural homogenization and the erosion of cultural specificity” (Robins, p.242). As an American, I would also be annoyed to see my home being filled with large corporations from a foreign country. This goes to show and support Robins’ important notion that globalization is experienced differently for everyone and that there are opposing ideas to this concept.
Despite the fact that some countries have harsh feelings towards the globalization of American culture, some places, such as Africa, rely and depend on the support from the United States and other global superpowers. In the video, “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy”, they follow the daily routine of a young man called Luka. Luka is in the second hand clothes trade business, an industry in which has flourished in Africa and evidently replaced manufacturing within the country. Being that my family and I are always donating old clothing, I found this video very interesting. I never gave thought to the idea that my old clothing could be anywhere in the world right now, finding itself subject to the second hand clothes trade business. The narrator’s reaction to the American globalization in Africa reminded me of how I feel when in Rome, “The style of dress in the village was oddly familiar. The village elder in the Chanel knock off jacket, the woman in the ADCD T-shirt, the children sporting Adidas” (T-Shirt Travels). Although these individuals live very different lifestyles from what we know in America, it is interesting to see how globalization is experienced through volunteer services and consequently affected the African lifestyle.
While reading this article and during my time here abroad, the topic of human rights has arose several times. Because of this, I would alter our class-working definition of “global community” to incorporate this important building block in globalization. Subsequently, I would like to add the following: all individuals in the global community shall be treated with political, religious, and gender equality and have the freedom to defend their unalienable rights. Obviously this is only touching upon the basic ideals constructing human rights, however, it is certainly an important start. Something in which caught my attention in regards to human rights was the current global issue of Islamic struggles in the context of Western Globalization. It saddens me that some Muslims feel as though they need to be cautious in order to maintain a positive perception of others, always feeling targeted and different. Robins quotes Akbar Ahmed in order to convey this message, “For many Muslims, Ahmed argued, the objective is ‘to participate in the global civilization without their identity being obliterated’” (Robins, p. 245). Although to a far less severity, this reminded me of how I feel while participating in the global community abroad. At times I am ashamed of my American background, trying to hide my nationality. However, if I am in the company of other Americans, I am always very cautious in how we present ourselves and how we are viewed. It is sad that people feel this way while participating in the global community, the one in which they belong to just as much as the next person. Due to the fact that everyone should be treated equal, this should not be an issue.
The picture in which conveys my developing awareness of the interactions of globalization and travel is of my roommate Fricya ad I on a plane during a weekend trip. Although this may sound like a strange representation of awareness for globalization, a main part of encountering the global community is both learning from others and teaching others. As I have mentioned in previous travel logs, Fricya is Brazilian, and therefore we often see things much differently. What is normal to myself may be strange to her, and vise versa. Traveling with Fricya has been a great experience and a fitting example of Robin’s concept of “hybridization”. During my travels, I am able to now consider four different cultures: American, Italian, Brazilian, and our current travel destination. Because of this, there is a constant cycle of integration and exchanging of ideas as I am always learning something new concurrently adding to someone else’s knowledge!
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Stylus Publishing, LLC., 2010).
The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy